Strange New Freedom

Hang In There Baby

IN THE MIDDLE OF TEARING UP THE JOINT, attacking piles of dusty junk that’s walled us in after 17 years together in the old adobe. Blow ‘em up, sort the pieces, make more piles in other places while I vacuum. The whole damn shitteroo is worthless if I don’t fill the trash can, though. Has to be done so she can find things after Easter when I bring her home. Hah, “home.” Not the home she wants nor I myself but this is paradise compared to fucking rehab, more about which in a minute while I bitch about the nails.

I took a break to feed the birds, assuming they could beat the squirrels. There was snow all over the ground because that’s spring at 7,000 feet. All I did was walk a foot into the brush pile to poke some poor dead yellow roses in the heap and brighten up the scene, then ouch goddammit as a broke off twig thing stuck me in the ankle. No, not that. In the bottom of my left foot, right through the beat-up Eddie Bauer moccasins I’ve decided are my winter shoes, the longest rusty nail I’ve ever seen, poking from a little four-inch piece of wood I never saw in all my life but there it is and now it’s jabbed me. Pull that sucker out like movie cowboys do with arrows shot into their thighs. A little blood. Oh God, the snow is full of nails! What a metaphor for Taos.

Driving to Urgent Care to get a tetanus shot was oddly fun. This is where it gets a little weird. The day was cold and gray, my wife imprisoned in the idiot shop, I’d just stepped on a rusty nail, but I could grab a mask and get a shot and be all right. Taking control in the avalanche of shit was rousing. The heater in the Dodge pumped gobs of air, the Fat Possum Records sampler I’d crammed into the stereo jumped in with an obscene Hasil Adkins track, and for the time it took to get inoculated and drive back here the world was fine and dandy. I found a cut with slide guitar and cranked it. So…


Now about that clinic. The first thing is, you don’t get sick in Taos. Holy Cross Hospital is a healing place, but all the rest is scary. La frontera has always been where hardy souls shut grandpa in the shed until the banging stops. You need a root canal or dermatologist, you go to Santa Fe. For anything that kills you, there’s a $50,000 helicopter ride to Albuquerque. The purpose of a “rehab clinic” in a county with 14 souls per square mile is for Medicare to pay for salaries and help some people if they can. Training costs a lot of dough. I’ve met ferociously smart and dedicated staffers there, and then there are the ones I hear while my wife is on the phone who talk to her as if she’s stupid. She isn’t deaf or insane, she just had a stroke. Hello??

I realize everyone is doing what they can. But you can read about aphasia or the other common consequences of a stroke and know you have to hang on just a minute. This morning for example when I called my wife, she sounded almost normal, then happily informed me that “I actually drove myself to Chestertown this morning.” In Maryland, where we used to live. Oh boy.

“I don’t think so, honey.” [wrong move]

“Oh, right. Of course…” [she gets it though]

“But never mind all that, how was it?” [lightly spoken, better maybe]

“Just beautiful…” [okay, fine, excellent]

Then I told her I’d been texting with an old friend of ours in Maryland last night who had a lot to do on this Palm Sunday with her church job. A little bit of long-ago passed through the ether, maybe, in the midnight hour, and my honey picked up on it. For all I know she tried to say (or thought she had) that she’d been thinking about our old home town this morning, but it came out that she “drove” there. In any case she did recover [see above] and we shared a happy memory we have in common. Healing, brothers and sisters—can’t do this in a cold white place where no one knows they’re dealing with a lifelong musician, classical pianist, performer, college professor, and adventurer with three degrees, the brightest loving spirit I have ever known.

This entire process has smashed my face into the mirror, or the mud. The mud and blood. The fucking spiders underneath the bed, the lies I learned so long ago. No “what ifs” any more, I’m in the moment. The brain, it crackles. My heart is torn apart and bursting. I thought it would be worse but so far not. No strategies, no planning. I was born for this somehow. I have the wildest dreams of women, locomotives, music, houses with a porch and flowers. Just blew Sunday.

Back to work.

UPDATE 3-29-2021: I just talked to my wife and she sounded much better. Keep thinking good thoughts! (They work.) She’ll be home by Easter. – JHF

3-30-2021: I’ve also added a paid subscription option, beginning today, for those who wish to show support for all I do. You can still subscribe for free, of course, and read everything already published. Details via the button below. -JHF